Leigh Turner

Leigh Turner

Consul General and Director-General for Trade & Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and the South Caucasus

9th September 2011 Istanbul, Turkey

Shoah by Bullets

What is a French Catholic priest doing uncovering mass graves from the shootings of Jews, gypsies and others in Ukraine in the years 1941-1944?

It’s a question which Father Patrick Desbois asks at the opening of the exhibition “Shoah by Bullets: Mass Shootings of Jews in Ukraine 1941-1944″ at the Ukrainian House in the centre of Kyiv on 8 September.  The answer, Father Desbois says, is that his grandfather was deported in 1942 to a camp in what is now western Ukraine near Lviv.  His grandfather told him that, while conditions in the camp were awful, those outside were far worse.

 Now Father Desbois leads an organisation working closely with Jewish counterparts which makes twelve visits a year to Ukraine, going from village to village asking people whether they saw mass shootings and, if so, what they saw.  The result has been the uncovering of mass graves of more than one million Jews and 48 extermination sites for gypsies on Ukrainian territory.

At the opening ceremony, Father Desbois and Eric de Rothschild, President of Memorial de la Shoah, underline that their work is not about pointing fingers but about helping to ensure, through education and testimony that this can never happen again.  It is about putting a name, a face and a life to individual victims.  It is about teaching people, including through schools projects in Ukraine, not to run with the crowd when the crowd is doing the wrong thing.  It is, as Stephen Smith of the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education says, an opportunity not to think about death but to think about life.
 
The exhibition is on at the House of Ukraine, on European Square in centre of Kyiv from 8 September to 3 October.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog – about Turkey and the UK and things
that link us together – interesting and, where appropriate,
entertaining.  You can also follow me on twitter – @leighturnerFCO.
About me: I arrived in Istanbul in August 2012 for five weeks of
full-time Turkish immersion before taking up my responsibilities as HM
Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey,
Central Asia and South Caucasus the following month.
Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and
Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in
several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in
1983.
Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna,
Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and now Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging
from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.
2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the
house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism while my wife worked at the embassy.
To get to know the great city of Istanbul and the rest of the
fascinating and dynamic country that is Turkey is a privilege and a
pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.

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